A man with experience, a man with personality. A man able to balance defensive solidarity with a spark of creativity. Utilising pace, power and the unpredictability of mavericks such as Yannick Bolassie, Wilfried Zaha, Bakary Sako and Jason puncheon, Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew could be the perfect fit for England should Roy Hodgson fail to deliver in France next summer.
Firstly, this is in no way an article belittling Roy Hodgson as a manager, the role of England manager can be seen, in some way, as a poisoned chalice. A role in which the man at the helm can, and will, be second guessed by every sofa-pundit, keyboard warrior, and Gary Neville impersonator in this country.
Roy is a man with extensive experience, managing in: England, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and the UAE. Yet he was unable to manage England to any more than complete and utter embarrassment at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He has then, to his credit, guided England through the European Championships qualifying group stage with a 100% record. There is clear signs that England are an improving side, transitioning from the years of the miss-matched pairing of Lampard and Gerrard roaming the centre circle, to the young talents of Sterling, Barkley and Stones.
England are a side capable of sweeping aside the lesser nations with quick football and an airtight defence, but have on more than one occasion looked toothless against nations with similar ambition to the Three Lions, (the two-nil loss to Spain earlier this month, and games against Italy and Uruguay in Brazil spring instantly to mind).
With players available to England such as Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Vardy and Kane, it is evident that England have young and hungry players, with an abundance of pace, trickery and the innate ability to spot a run, perhaps the focus should be shifted from the possession-based football made popular by Spain circa 2012, to a fast, strong, physically dominant force à la Bayern Munich of 2013.
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Granted, Adam Lallana and Jesse Lingaard may not possess the ruthlessness or guile of Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery. But under the correct tutorship, and the implementation of tactics best suited to serve the talents of the young English contingent, England can set a style and standard recognised worldwide.
Recent comments from Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque stating: “There is no English football anymore, no authentic style” is a statement which is very difficult to argue against.
This highlights the lack of impression make throughout Europe and other continents. England are crying out for a change of outlook. Step forward Mr A.Pardew.
All one has to do, to find out how highly this man is thought of is take a stroll around the streets surrounding Selhurst Park, Upton Park and the Madejksi Stadium. Currently the fans supporting the Eagles are benefitting from the leadership of their former player, improving Palace from relegation candidates to an established mid-table Premier league side, in which others look on in envy at the skills of Zaha and Bolassie, the strength and solidarity of the centre half pairing of Scott Dann and Damien Delaney (stop sniggering at the back), and the pin-point precision passing of the French maestro Yohan Cabaye.
Before his current spell in South London, Pardew found himself as manager of ‘the sleeping giant’ of a club, situated in the North-East. Pardew did not exactly endear himself to the locals at NE1, he did not get off to a great start with the fans, especially after committing the unforgivable crime of being born a Southerner.
During the four years in which Pardew was in charge of Newcastle, he was viewed as the face of the evil cockney mafia, clearly holding the mighty force that is Newcastle United football club, back from their rightful place in Champions League and FA cup finals. The truth of the situation was, no matter if Pardew beat Sunderland every time the two clubs met, gained european qualification and ended world hunger, he would have always had his detractors in that part of the world.
However, since the departure of Pardew to pastures new, Newcastle have slumped to a side looking, alongside other fallen giants of clubs Sunderland and Aston Villa, as favourites to be dropping a division come the end of the season. The difference of the quality of football being played, when newcastle played their way to a 5th place finish in the 2011/2012 season under Pardew, to the side who, just last Saturday slumped to a three-nil home loss to Leicester City, is as clear as daylight.
The decision to allow Pardew to leave St. James Park (I’m sorry, Sports Direct Arena *spits on floor*) must have even the loudest of the anti-cockney mafia brigade, wondering if maybe, just maybe, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Off the back of the slander and abused aimed at him from the black-and-white striped club from the North-East, ‘Pards’ returned to London to his beloved Crystal Palace, a club in which he played for 128 times, including an appearance at the FA cup final in 1990 and its replay versus Manchester United, also appearing in the Eagles win against Everton in the final of the Zenith Data Systems Cup (no, me neither).
Pardew went on to guide Crystal Palace to their best ever Premier League finish of tenth. In doing so, Pardew became the first manager to take over a team in the relegation zone, and end the season in the top half of the division. Many also went on to claim, that it was Pardew’s tenure at Newcastle for the first half of the 2014/2015 season which allowed Newcastle to stave off relegation (well, it certainly wasn’t through the tactical genius of John Carver).
Pardew’s reign started off brilliantly, a demolition of non-league side Dover, followed by a two-one win over rivals Spurs gave Crystal Palace fans a glimpse of the style of football they would be witnessing for the remainder of the season. Zaha and Puncheon at times looked like men possessed. But the real hero of the Palace faithful came in the form of Yannick Bolasie. The Congolese international became one of the most exciting wingers in Europe, using deft flicks and tricks which confudled not only the defender who had just been left on his backside, but also the crowd, commentator and cameramen.
Overnight, the man set himself a £25million pound price tag, and a long line of admirers emerged. If Pardew is capable of bringing out that kind of form from a player as relatively anonymous as Bolasie, just imagine what the man can do with the likes of British transfer record holder Raheem Sterling.
Pardew has had his fair few moments of controversy also. Spats with Wenger, Pellegrini and perhaps most famously, a disagreement with Hull City midfielder David Meyler, with a headbutt most WWE superstars would have been proud of, the man clearly has, for lack of a better word: ‘personality’.
He has been described by many as: a man whom, ‘if he were made of chocolate, would eat himself’. Yet despite these judgements by football fans up and down the country, he has constantly proved himself in many different footballing situations (everyone remembers the 4-4 comeback between Newcastle and Arsenal). Clearly Palace would not allow for Pardew to leave Selhurst Park without a fight, and rightly so.
However, Palace’s loss could be England’s gain, as they would have acquired a manager with tactical know-how, man-management skills that bring the best out of untapped potential from within relatively average footballers, and the ability to do the unexpected (no, I’m not referring to his Pardew shuffle made famous at West Ham).
So, should England fall to another disappointing display in France next summer, maybe, just maybe the FA should put the name ‘Alan Pardew’ at the top of their shortlist.
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